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Agony Agent

15th April 2017

Each week, we answer a reader’s rental property question, from first-time landlords to experienced owners.  Agony Agent, is here to help!

Q: Do I need to take references on my tenant’s dogs?

A:  Whilst there are upsides to having a pet in a rented property, what are the downsides?

  • Pet damage is not covered by insurance policies
  • Allergies, infestations, damage
  • Potential nuisance to neighbours, such as barking
  • Could be a safety hazard if they escape and cause injury to a person or animal

Tips to prevent the risk

Ask the tenant about their pet – a guidance booklet from the ‘Lets with Pets’ website contains useful questions to ask them.

References:  If there is a previous landlord, ask for references on these pets.  If there was no previous landlord, ask for a reference from their vet (sounds strange, but you will not be the first person ever to do this).

Flats:  If the property is a leasehold flat, check the terms of the head lease for any restrictions which would prevent an occupier from keeping pets.  If there are no such restrictions, you would normally be entitled as a private landlord to allow tenants to keep pets at your discretion.

Deposits:  Obtain a higher deposit; normally an extra two weeks is good practice, and have an addendum in your contract to tie them to a professional clean at the end of the tenancy.

“No Pet” policy:  If you insist on no pets in the property you can include a suitable worded clause in the tenancy agreement saying that no pets are allowed without the Landlord’s written consent (or words to that effect).  Be sure to confirm your “no pet” policy before the tenant moves in.  You may end up losing the right to keep the tenant’s pets off the property if swift action is not taken.

What can be done if a tenant breaches the “no pet” policy?  There are several ways you can choose to deal with pets in rental properties depending on how serious the problem actually is.  If the tenant decides to keep pets such as a caged bird or small fish tank, the landlord may be happy to turn a blind eye, especially if you have an excellent tenant who always pays their rent on time.

However, if a larger pet like a cat or dog appears, the landlord may wish to take action.  Try to have a peaceful discussion with the tenant and if the pet is acceptable, an additional pet deposit should be paid to cover any possible cleaning or damages.

If your tenant and you are unable to reach a mutual agreement on pets in rental properties, then it’s time to consider taking action to evict the tenant.

Obtaining possession if there is a breach

Based on the general advice from solicitors, a tenant would be in breach of their agreement if they introduced an animal that was not included on the tenancy agreement, but it is likely to be difficult to quantify loss and enforce against the breach.  A landlord could in extreme circumstances apply to the court for possession but the judge would take into consideration the impact of the tenant losing their home versus the inconvenience of a pet.

Who knew something as cute as a puppy could create sooo much work?

Need help? Please get in touch.

Richard Bond

Lettings Manager

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